There are various types of alimony, but they all essentially serve the same main purpose of helping a spouse regain his or her financial independence and stability after the end of the marriage. Whether you are the spouse who is seeking alimony or the one being asked to pay it, an understanding of Massachusetts’ alimony laws will help you present your best case. So will retaining an experienced alimony lawyer, who can also assist in productive settlement negotiations with your husband or wife. Connect with the team at LaFountain & Wollman P.C.

The Basics of Alimony

Also known as spousal support, alimony is intended to help a spouse remain or become financially self-supporting after divorce. Closely related to this is the goal of maintaining, or coming as close as possible, to the lifestyle that the spouse enjoyed during the marriage.

Alimony is not a right that every spouse has upon divorce. There must be both a demonstrated financial need and the ability of the other spouse to pay alimony. Either the husband or wife can request alimony, and in some cases it can be modified (see below). Alimony can be handled in court or resolved outside of court by way of a mediated settlement agreement.

What Are the Different Types of Alimony?

Massachusetts recognizes four types of alimony:

  1. General Term. Under this arrangement, one spouse makes a regular payment to the other. How long those payments last will depend on how long the marriage lasted. General alimony can be modified at a later date if there has been a substantial change of circumstances or other compelling reasons.
  2. Rehabilitative. This type of alimony is paid to a spouse who is expected to become self-sufficient by a certain date. It may be appropriate, for instance, to award this form of alimony to a spouse who needs to complete his or her education or training to re-enter the job market. Rehabilitative alimony may also be modified.
  3. Reimbursement. The objective of this type of alimony is to compensate the recipient spouse for the contributions he or she made to support the paying spouse. An example is if the recipient spouse put his or her career on hold so the other could advance in their career. Typically, this is awarded in cases in which the spouses were married for five years or less. It is not modifiable.
  4. Transitional. Finally, transitional alimony helps a spouse settle into a new financial lifestyle or location after the divorce is finalized. It is also common in marriages of five years or less and cannot be modified.

Which Factors Are Used in Deciding the Alimony Award?

Courts will look at a number of factors in determining how and in what amount to award alimony. Those factors include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The ages of both spouses
  • The health of both spouses
  • The incomes, employability, and potential job prospects of both spouses
  • The economic and non-economic contributions both spouses made to the marriage
  • Whether either spouse gave up economic opportunities for the sake of the marriage
  • The ability of both spouses to maintain their standards of living after the marriage

It will be up to both spouses to present evidence and arguments regarding these factors as well as the weight that the judge should give to each one. An experienced alimony attorney can advocate for you in court or mediation.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

In 2012, Massachusetts passed the Alimony Reform Act to impose limits on how long alimony payments last. The duration of alimony now corresponds to the length of the marriage, as follows:

  • For marriages of 5 years or less, alimony cannot exceed 50% of the length of the marriage
  • If 10 years or less, it cannot exceed 60% of the length of the marriage
  • If 15 years or less, it cannot exceed 70% of the length of the marriage
  • If 20 years or less, it cannot exceed 80% of the length of the marriage
  • For marriages that lasted 20 or more years, the duration is potentially indefinite

Possible Ways to Modify or End Alimony

As mentioned above, alimony is subject to possible modification. These are a few possible ways:

  • Death. Alimony may end if the receiving spouse or the paying spouse dies.
  • Remarriage. General and rehabilitative alimony can end if the receiving spouse remarries.
  • Retirement. If the paying spouse reaches full retirement age, alimony may end.
  • Cohabitation. Romantic cohabitation of three months or longer may reduce, suspend, or terminate alimony.
  • Income. If either spouse’s income changes, it may support a modification request.

There are rules and nuances that apply to these situations, and it’s important to understand that the type of alimony you are paying or receiving may not be modifiable. Ask a dedicated alimony lawyer to learn more.

Contact Our Middlesex County Alimony Attorney

Do you have questions about alimony and want to know how much and how long you may receive it? Are you being asked to pay alimony but cannot afford it? Have circumstances changed that affect the amount of alimony you either receive or pay? For these and related questions, give LaFountain & Wollman P.C. a call. Schedule your consultation today.